Bronwyn Watts – Owner of Cold Spring Nurse Mares

by Victoria Howard

This week’s article is about someone you probably have never heard of. Her wonderful business is a godsend to harness racing and horses.

It’s a subject that most of us luckily will never have to deal with, but if it does, it’s heartbreaking.

Hopefully, you’ve never needed to find a mare to surrogate an orphan foal that was either rejected by his/her mother or the mare died leaving a poor tiny foal without his mom. If you should find yourself in this unfortunate circumstance, Bronwyn Watts is the one to call.

Watts is a guardian angel to horses. She’s a wonderful, compassionate lady who pairs orphaned foals with loving, four-legged mares.

When a foal is born it not only needs his mother’s milk and nourishment to survive, but also constant companionship in order to thrive, which is psychologically beneficial.

And that is exactly what Watt’s Cold Spring Nurse Mares LLC in Ocala, FL and Lexington, KY provides.

Watts was born and raised on a working horse farm in rural southwest Virginia, and the love and passion for horses was instilled in her from the very beginning.

When she got older Watts was involved in the event world. She groomed at the Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event seven times, and worked for upper-level rides such as Laine Ashker and Jonathan Holling.

After ending a toxic relationship and not knowing which direction to go in her young life, Watts did something that most of us would never have the courage to do. She sold all of her belongings and booked a one-way ticket to Belize, embarking on eight months of travel throughout Central and South America.

It was while she was in Chile that she came across an article on the topic of nurse mares. It touched her deeply seeing the crucial need of a nurse mare due to the death or rejection of a mother to her foal.

Watts couldn’t stop reading the article and began searching for more articles on the topic and knew this is what she wanted to do with her life. So, she began extensively researching hormone-induced lactation and was determined to start her own hormone induced nurse mare program.

That was the birth of Cold Spring Nurse Mares, an organization that provides a service for orphan foals up and down the East Coast of the United States.

“The need for a nurse mare is an extremely busy one and the search for a nurse mare is often a desperate one fraught with emotion,” Watts said. “It’s also an expensive and emotionally taxing process.

“Much of my business comes from thoroughbred breeding operations; although we see all types: thoroughbreds, standardbreds, warmbloods, quarter horses and mules.”

Yes, even mules. And this is where my personal experience came in to play.

Anyone that knows me knows I fall in love with every one of my horses. I am not a millionaire or have the land to give my four-legged kids happy forever homes when they are done racing, so this year when I was told that one of my standardbred mares, Babyitscoldoutside, who has given me three foals, could no longer have babies. I was frantic at where I could place her. She is a sweet 7-year-old mare who loved being a mother. My heart broke and I couldn’t rest until I found her a home where she could feel wanted and fulfilled. A friend of mine, Laurie Poulin, suggested I call Watts and I did.

At the time Babyitscoldoutside had just been weaned from her Green Manalishi colt and she was still lactating. I immediately called Watts and told her the story. Luckily, Baby was accepted and I had her shipped to Cold Spring Nurse Mares.

Only three days after Baby arrived, a mule gave birth and rejected her gorgeous, long-eared mule colt. Babyitscoldoutside is called a “maiden nurse mare” and Watts was cautious, yet hopeful, she would accept the adorable little guy. Thankfully my mare was perfect with him and took the little colt in as her own.

People were amazed that a standardbred mare accepted, nursed and loved a little mule colt, but that’s exactly what she did.

I always wanted to own a mule so I guess you could say I am now a proud “grandma” to this little unnamed mule.

Cold Spring Nurse Mares covers the South, Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and parts of the mid-west: as far north as PA, west to TX, ARK, L.A. and everywhere in between.

How does it work?

“Typically we lease the mare out for four-to-six months. Once the mare is weaned she is sent back home to our farm in Ocala, Florida, where she will have a four-to-six months vacation ‘time out’ frolicking in green pastures with the other mares, until the following seasons roll around.”

As far as success in matching the surrogate mare to the foal, Watts has an incredible success rate.

“We have been lucky — no, we have been blessed — in not having an issue of rejection and having an incredible 100 per cent pairing acceptance rate which is simply unheard of.

“In 2018, I got my first two nurse mares from a farm in West Virginia. They were thoroughbreds named Tiya and Dixie.

“In 2019, I started the program with six mares: Tiya, Dixie, Granite, Sooey, Gracie and Bizzy. We finished the season in June 2019 with 27 mares paired.

“In 2020 we had a total of 35 mares; in 2021 that number grew to 57, and this year in 2022 we have 82 wonderful willing and loving nurse mares that we lease out every single year.

“Our girls are simply the best and they all love their job.

“If for some reason the nurse mare does not work out, we will bring a different nurse mare but as I said before that is extremely rare.”

Why does a mare reject her foal?

“There are several reasons a mare will reject her biological foal. The first is due to the fact the mare can’t handle the pain and associates pain with their foal.

“Also, in some cases a human will interfere with the birthing and bonding process when there is no need to.

“Of course, there are situations when intervention of humans is a must to save a foal’s life, but if everything is going well, stay back and let Mother Nature do her job.”

Watts said there are plans in the making for a second location to open in Texas to better help clients, mares, and foals in need in that area.